11/2022 Rabbit Jacket Update
Backstory on Rabbit & Small batch production
I met Rabbit in 2014. I was just so into her as a maker with this tiny mill upstate, Thistle Hill Weavers, that she ran like a bespoke couture fabric house. It was so incredible – this combination of that level of quality with her rural situation was so interesting. I just wanted to work with her.
Were you looking for a vendor at that time, or was it more coincidental?
I was working in apparel and fashion and she was the aunt-in-law of one of the women on my design team. They had gone to visit her and she came back from that weekend upstate and was like Karuna, you have to meet this person and let's just go crazy, you're gonna die. So I met Rabbit the next time she was in the city. She came by our studio and it was one of those things where you meet people and you feel like you've known them forever.
You just have this really deep conversation from the first minute you sit down together and I’ve wanted to work with her ever since. She's really special person.
When we started FOUR, she was the first person we collaborated with to make the Rabbit Jacket. She weaves the fabric, she orders the yarn, and they hand rack the loom. It's an old piece of weaving equipment. It's still electric, but there's a lot of handwork. It's very artisanal. They finish the fabric and send it down to New York City where we have a small run production factory, and they cut and sew the jacket. Thistle Hill can't really make more than 200 yards at a time because the looms are beautiful antique looms. Initially, we were buying from all American companies to purchase the yarn - some spun the yarn themselves and imported the fibers, but they were all Rabbit's local sources.
Yarn issues in Covid
During the pandemic, one of the American wool spinners we had been using since the beginning changed hands, and all of a sudden the quality and the finish of the yarn wasn't up to standard.
She was literally in the middle of weaving a run of fabric for us and the yarn started to break.
It hadn't been finished properly and the new owner just didn't have the expertise to give us the quality that we were accustomed to. So it put us in a situation where we had to basically re-source the wool in the middle of production.
Improving & Evaluating QualityWe took that opportunity to evaluate where we thought the best yarn in the world was made, ensuring the source was part of the RWS (Responsible Wool Standard). We had to first change our wool and then test that wool. I visited one of the Italian mills I've been working with for decades called Tollegno. It’s a really old family mill in Northern Italy and they have done a lot of work on the supply chain side in terms of sustainability. They have traceable and responsibly-sourced wool, and their quality is second to none. Sadly, we had to move from American spun wool to imported Italian wool, but we there are no other spinners in the US that could achieve same quality, quantity and consistency, so we decided to upgrade and import the Italian wool.
Testing is complete and Rabbit is currently making the first run of our double weave fabric with that new Italian wool and it's coming out beautifully. This will get cut into the next run of Rabbit Jackets for the first 40 people on our waitlist. And then we're going to try to get back on our normal production schedule from there. There will always be a limited amount of Rabbit Jackets we can make, we really can't make more than 300-400 pieces a year.
But the truth is, it's also part of the beauty of it - working with these small mills and supporting these handcrafted, traditional textiles with inherent limitations.
We have very patient customers that we appreciate, who have had to wait for more than six months for their Rabbit Jacket. We really do believe it's worth the wait as it's such a special piece.
Unfortunately, the Rabbit Jacket is never going to really be in inventory at this point. We've experienced too many delays beyond our control. We have a pretty long waitlist, and then every time a Collector signs up, they also get priority. So if people are waiting until they're back in stock, it may never happen. We encourage you to get on the waitlist or becoming a Collector. We want to set realistic expectations so anyone who pre-purchased their Rabbit Jacket before June 2022 will receive theirs this year. Anyone who purchased it after June 2022 will receive it by late winter. Once we are caught up with everyone who has pre-purchased we will invite those on the waitlist to make their purchase. Anyone on the waitlist now will not receive theirs until the second half of 2023.
This entirely unique and extraordinary fabric took us a year to develop with master weaver and incredible woman, Rabbit Goody, at Thistle Hill Weavers in Cherry Valley, NY. Weaving since her teen years, Rabbit, our namesake, is a much sought-after textile historian and magician with early power looms. Fascinated and intrigued by the transition from hand weaving to powered technology, Rabbit has built a mill specializing in the use of Crompton & Knowles looms that date between the 1890’s and the 1960’s. There are less than a handful of mills running these looms and no American companies remain that produce textile equipment.
Thistle Hill Weavers
For over 26 years Thistle Hill Weavers have been producing ingrain carpet, special Jacquard’s, damask, venetian carpet, dimities, gossamer drapery, worsted camblet, baize, and woven coverlets. Rabbit Goody’s vast repertoire is possible, in part, because of her ability to make the looms do things they were never designed to do because they are mechanical rather than electronic making it possible to fabricate new machine parts and change them when necessary, giving the designers she works with unheard of flexibility.
For the Rabbit Jacket, we developed a double weave based on a French upholstery technique that gave us the ability to create a durable, denim-like exterior while simultaneously creating a bottom layer with a more open weave structure to allow the silk and wool to bloom into a soft, sweater like interior.
When we were dreaming about what FOUR could be, we fantasized about a collection of clothing that we would keep, repair and pass down to the next generation. Tired of the endless stream of fast fashion we were craving a kind of sustainability that would endure not only from a material perspective but from a kind of design that was imbued with a timeless modernism that had form and functionality at it’s core.
Our inaugural garment for permanent collection, 4.1 th Rabbit Jacket, is inspired by the traditional Japanese hanten and the ritual of exchange between work and home that it embodies. As new mothers and professional working women, we felt this transitional garment that works both inside and outside the home in casual and formal scenarios, is a perfect debut. The hanten first became popular during the Edo period, especially worn by common folk in the late 18th century. Unlike other similar coat styles like the haori, the hanten wasn’t restricted to the upper classes or a particular gender. The hanten could be worn by anyone for any number of occasions both in and outside the home. Thanks to it’s durable, lightweight design, it provided both warmth and breathability, making the hanten an all season garment. Traditionally worn while studying, cooking, gardening, attending festivals or running errands, the extreme versatility has made the Hanten jacket a staple of the Japanese wardrobe even today.
4.1 The Rabbit Jacket
Continuing in this tradition, the Rabbit Jacket has an elegant shape with a generous fit for layering and side slits for pant pocket access. Feel like going out without a bag? The oversized pockets fit all your necessities with a clean look, while 3/4 sleeves stay out of your way. The Rabbit Jacket is made of a luxuriously durable, hand-woven fabric which will maintain its shape and classic look without extra care. When a wash is in order it should be washed gently in cold water and hung to dry.